Back on 4/02, Carlos Torano fine cigars, by way of their personable rep, Armando Lapido, sponsored one beauty of a cigar party (herf, to those who speak cigar) at our brick and mortar, Low Country Pipe & Cigar. Standing up from my desk, located in what I affectionately refer to as “the south 10,000”, I grabbed Calvin Miller, our new visual arts & design wizard (and nicotine neophyte) and asked if he’d like to try a great, free cigar? His answer being enthusiastically affirmative, we threw on our coats, and beat feet to the herf-in-process 100 yards to the north.
While turn-outs a cigar event can vary a bit, Torano really brought ‘em in: Calvin and I must have squeezed past close to 50 cigar enthusiasts in order to get to Armando and his recommendations. He picked out a medium-full selection for me and, inexplicably, a dark, nicotine-nuke for Calvin – yeah, the man whose sole lifetime exposure to nic began with a few experimental bowls of mild tobacco some weeks ago. After wandering through fragrant clouds, introducing Calvin to those I remembered, and both of us making the acquaintance of the new gents, it was time for me to pass on my years of wisdom to the “initiate” (ok, I read a book once). My last bit of advice to C was to smoke his Torano as slowly possible, without allowing it to go out. “A good cigar should be like a short vacation.”
I wandered over to talk to Josh Burgess, enjoying the cigar and fine camaraderie and, after about 10 minutes, Josh asked “Didn’t you and Calvin start your cigars at about the same time?” I arched a questioning eyebrow, and turned to look in the direction Josh had just indicated. Whereas my cigar had a minimum of 3/4s left to go, Calvin had smoked his so far down, he was all but looking for a roach-clip to keep it going! I hustled up to him. “How many fingers am I holding up?” “Huh?” “Dude, you are, essentially, a non-smoker. In your hand is, ok – was - the nicotine equivalent of a cobalt bomb. Right now the inside of your head should be looking like a Jackson Pollock.” “Nah, I’m great. In fact I’m going for another!”
For the past week, I have been trying to convince Calvin to volunteer for blood & neurological studies: I can’t fathom how he so easily metabolized a massive amount of parasympathomimetic alkaloid, and have to know. He has yet to agree, but I’m working on it.
Yes, our crew has come home from the IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas. Not only did they lug back hundreds of beautiful pipes, which are soon to hit the website, but they also managed to take some video to showcase the many brands represented there. A quick warning: the video below may cause extreme jealousy and drooling. Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more clips like this one. Without any further delay, here are the highlights:
We'd talked and talked about doing something cigar related and fun in Low Country Pipe & Cigar (our brick & mortar retail store located just beneath the main office) but just couldn’t seem to prop up the right idea. Then it dawned on Bill, our store manager, that we ought to do a Brickhouse cigar event, seeing as how SPC and LCP&C inhabits a one hundred-plus-year old brick building (that was, at one point, among other things, someone's house).
We set a date, put the word out to our customers, and a few weeks later David Ludwig from Brickhouse showed up in a fancy suit with a trunkful of cigars. The turnout was shockingly fantastic, and thanks to the samples David was generous enough to pass out I think a lot of guys got turned on to Brickhouse that wouldn’t have otherwise. In fact, I know it. One of our regular store customers known for only smoking Rocky Patels bought a box of Brickhouse sticks. Adam tried one for the first time in years and raved about it. Even Susan enjoyed puffing on a Brickhouse stogie. Before long the store was loaded with folks and packed with smoke. Ah yes; it was a good time. And we should definitely do something like this again soon.
Kelly can choose any cigar he wants in our walk-in humidor when he feels a craving, so what puts him in the mood for a particular stick? The Padron 7000 Natural is one of his all-time favorite go-to smokes. When the afternoon allows hustle and bustle in the store to wind down a bit, the medium-bodied cigar calls like a Siren. Part of smoking a cigar is about sitting back and relaxing. While smoking a small one will do, firing up a large 6-inch by 60 ring stogie will allow for a lot more contemplation time. Superbly constructed with an even draw, the smoke delivers coffee bean notes, as Kelly says, and never disappoints. Later in the afternoon, this is something you will find Kelly savoring more than many others. If you've never tried one, he suggests you give it a shot.
I sat down with Kelly McLaughlin - our cigar expert in the store - to chat about one of his favorite smokes. Our store, Low Country Pipe & Cigar puts together a local email newsletter that features
special selections and notes for many of our walk-in customers, so it seems fitting to extend some of his passion here on our blog.
The Perdomo Reserve Champagne Churchill (7" x 54 ring gauge) is one of Kelly's favorite cigars and has become a best
seller over the years, in no small part to his admiration for this particular smoke. Delicious 6-year aged Connecticut Champagne wrappers lend subtle flavors to the smoke, while the well-aged Cuban-seed
filler and binder adds richness and character. It’s a perfect starting point for the new cigar smokers as well as the seasoned aficionado.
Adam: "So, why is this one of your favorite cigars?"
Kelly: "I love the Perdomo Champagne line because it's one of those cigars that I can depend on for consistent flavor, mild-to-medium in strength, and a room note that keeps others asking 'what
are you smoking?' This is one of our best-selling cigars. As you can see, there is a customer sitting out in our lounge waiting on a couple buddies to smoke this exact cigar. They first started coming in a
while ago, and gravitate back to this on a regular basis. When they pick up one of these Champagnes, they know what to expect: flavor."
Adam: "Let’s start with how you cut the cigar. What works best for you?"
Kelly: "I prefer to use a single punch because the cigar is so well constructed I don't feel the need to remove the entire cap for smoke flow. All Perdomo cigars go into a machine that tests the draw
flow and pressure prior to the caps being put in place, so I know it's going to smoke well. The double-cap holds everything together, but I've just found this is what I like for this cigar."
Adam: "Is there a reason you prefer this size and ring gauge over a smaller one?"
Kelly: "A cigar with a larger ring gauge burns less with each puff, so the proportions of filler/binder/wrapper are different on a smaller cigar. I find that these larger ones smoke a bit cooler
and there is more room for the flavors to develop during the smoke."
Adam: "What flavors do you experience with this one?"
Kelly: "After I punch the hole, I always take a test draw before lighting. I know it's going to smoke just fine, but this is a good time to make sure. While the wrapper has an aroma of fresh baked
bread crust with a lingering sweetness, the filler tobaccos lend a desirable Szechuan pepper flavor that makes me really look forward to firing it up."
Adam: "There a lot of different ways to light a cigar, but what's your favorite?"
Kelly: "I prefer to use a single-torch lighter to toast the foot without puffing. After evenly charring it and seeing a red coal, I let the lighter go out and take a gentle puff. In doing this,
the cigar sends out plumes of smoke and starts burning evenly right off the bat without allowing any of the super-heated smoke to drift into the body of the cigar, which is what happens when someone uses a
torch or triple torch to begin the smoke. It's different for everyone, but I just prefer the first puff to be at the same temperature as during the smoke."
Adam: "Do any flavors develop as you smoke?"
Kelly: "Sure. The initial puff brings forth the Szechuan pepper notes balanced with some of that sweet toasty aroma, and even a lingering strong coffee with cream coats the palate. As I smoke, the
pepper flavors intensify a little bit, but they aren't overwhelming or bitter at all. I love relaxing and enjoying all of the nuances during this smoke. When I get about an inch and a half from my lips I
let the cigar go out. Since all of the tobacco behind the ash filters the smoke, this is the point where it loses individual character. For me, putting a cigar down at the end of a good smoke is better than
continuing past the best flavors it has to offer. Bitterness and intensity reside in the very end, so I always want to have my last puff be a good one."
The other day, Brian asked me about this video interview. He remembered having done it, but we'd never put it up. It sort of got lost in the mass of footage we took at the show in New Orleans in early August. We're glad to finally get it up on the blog. It's a little difficult to hear the first few seconds, but it clears up after that. Generally, the sound required serious fiddling which, for some reason that I'm sure some serious sound guy might be able to explain, worked much better with Glen's voice than Brian's. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!
Also, I've been really impressed by the Kristoff Ligero line especially, though I find that a hearty meal preceding smoking helps tremendously...
Now, while many of you already now that our very own Brian Levine is as expert in 'pipes and tobacco' as they come, few realize that his knowledge of cigars and cigar care is quite advanced as well. Or maybe that's just me. Nevertheless, Brian took the time out of his very busy schedule, which primarily consists of talking to customers about Disneyland, Disney pipes, Disney music (which he tends to often blast from his office) and, on occasion, pipes, to share with us his preferred method of readying a new humidor for cigar storage. As you'll see, the process is a lot easier than it is often made out to be.
Since all humidors are purchased in a dry state, it takes time to 'season' them to the proper humidity for the cigars inside. The ideal standard in the business is 70% humidity - this will ensure that your cigars are stored in a perfect environment for aging, cutting, and smoking. Below 65% will slowly dry out some cigars, and above 75% will make a moist environment that could swell the filler and crack the wrapper (not to mention making burning more difficult).
Alright, I confess, I'd sort of forgotten that we still had some great footage from the IPCPR show in New Orleans in August. We took a lot of video at the show and with fully three of us behind the camera at various times, I sort of lost track of what all we had. The upside is that trolling through the raw footage is sort of like a treasure trove, as I eliminate video of me tripping over my own words, or Alyson and Susan not realizing that the camera is rolling and continuing their discussion on how silly the boys get when presented with all of the smokable goodies at the show (which, I might add, took place while they themselves were enjoying Kristoff coronas, so I think they have little room to stand on when mocking Brian and me).
Anyway, there's still lots of good stuff left, not least of which is this great interview with our friend Pete Johnson. When Pete launched Tatuaje, we were early, enthusiastic fans of the luscious Tatuaje Brown Label, rolled in Miami. Since then (perhaps a little more than five years ago), Tatuaje has continued to occupy a hallowed place in our humidor and continues to be a disproportionately popular brand both in the store and on Smokingpipes.com.
Sunday Inventory is like Sunday football: People cry
There’s a word here at Smokingpipes.com that brings horror to the face every
On Sunday we will be conducting our quarterly inventory. This unwelcome event takes
place on the last Sunday of every quarter. It also so happens that we are now into
football season, which in my house means Sunday afternoons are booked indefinitely.
My husband and I make total couch potatoes of ourselves, unless, of course, we are
forced to go to the local sports bar when our team’s game isn’t televised. And, no,
Direct TV is not available in our neighborhood – that’s another subject, entirely.
In preparation for this daunting task called inventory, we will spend the next
couple of days ensuring each department is organized before entering the count into
our system on Sunday. Keep in mind that we are very heavy in inventory as we are
just coming out of our annual purchasing trips in Italy, Denmark, and New Orleans.
In fact, I was just downstairs in our retail store to find Kelly wrestling in the
humidor with cigars that seemed to be growing from every nook. Ron is keeping his
cool, but muttering, secretly “What were they thinking, ordering all these cigars
before inventory!?” I noticed Jennifer is reorganizing our bulk tobacco room to
accommodate all the new shipments we’ve recently received. Over in the shipping
department I found Janice on the floor surrounded by tins of tobacco. Janice is
equivalent to the team equipment manager of an NFL team. Organization should be her
middle name. Pam and Alyson are busy on the 2nd floor in our pipe library
organizing new arrivals. Adam is checking-in all the estate pipes. He isn’t
making donuts for us this week. We need to keep our game weight down. No training
room or weight room here at Smokingpipes.com, only stair steps.
After reviewing his playbook and holding a team meeting, Brian has assigned players
to starting positions; teams for a Sunday kick off at 10:00 am. They are as
Sykes (Team Owner) and Pam: Estates
Brian (Head Coach) and Alyson: New Pipes
Susan and Ted: Tinned Tobacco and Accessories
Ron, Kelly, and Lisa (me): Cigars; Ron will be playing with an injured left ankle; we may have to wheel him around the humidor. No injured reserve list here at
Smokingpipes.com. How convenient for me; all the cigars are down in the store where we have a couch and a television.
There will be a halftime lunch with 1st half assessments by Sykes and a motivational
speech by Coach Brian. Hopefully we don’t go into overtime! We will definitely
have some Monday Morning Quarterbacking (aka: the dreaded missing-pipe list). Sykes
will be crunching numbers and reviewing the stats.
While many of you will be home watching football this Sunday, think of me counting:
1 cigar, 2 cigars, 3 cigars, etc...
Hours of Operation:
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